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Geoff1000Flag for New Zealand

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Is external HDD formatted "MS-DOS File System" by Macintosh File Utility in FAT32 format, and are there restrictions in using such external HDD formatted by Macintosh on both PC's and Macintosh?

I needed an external USB 320G HDD for storing digital photos, and want to read and write jpeg files both from Macintosh and PC's.  I use a Mac G4, OS  10.4.11, and two PC's, both running Windows XP at present.

Since this HDD must be accessible both for read and write from several PC's as well as Macintosh, and endure PC OS upgrades, I encountered the following:
- NTFS formatted HDD's cannot be written from Macintosh, nor can files be modified/deleted from other than the PC that wrote them,
- FAT32 format does not have the read/write restrictions, but my PC's won't format FAT32 volumes greater than 32G (and many 32G partitions is a big nuisance).

An earlier answer,  https://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/20390816/Mac-OS-10-sharing-files-from-a-firewire-NTSF-hard-drive.html, suggested the FAT32 32G restriction was arbitrary in Windows 2000 and XP (and Vista?), and that Windows 98 could format FAT32 volumes greater than 32G.  

Another answer, https://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/22948864/Format-120GB-Laptop-Hard-Drive-with-FAT32-or-FAT16.html, said FAT32 had a partition upper limit of 2TB, and suggested acquiring a separate (PC) formatting utility.

Having a Macintosh available, I successfully formatted my 320G external USB HDD in "MS-DOS format" and it appears as a single volume on both PC's and Macintosh, and reads/writes from both.  My problem of wanting a Mac/PC flexible and enduring HDD seems solved.

Before I load up with my history of photo files, my question is "Are there any restrictions in using a Macintosh "MS-DOS" formatted external HDD on PC's, particularly looking ahead to Vista, that may affect my simple universal photo access needs?


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Gary Case
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"... Are there any restrictions in using a Macintosh "MS-DOS" formatted external HDD on PC's, particularly looking ahead to Vista, that may affect my simple universal photo access needs? " ==>  No, the drive will be fine for what you've described.   The only constraint of using FAT32 formatting is that the maximum file size you can store on the external drive is 4GB ==> clearly larger than any individual photograph.

I'm sure your Mac successfully formatted the drive in FAT32 (otherwise it wouldn't be working well with both systems) ... but if you want to absolutely confirm that just right-click on the drive in Windows Explorer and select Properties ==> one of the items displayed will be the "File System" ... which should show FAT32.

... just to confirm what you noted in your question, the 32GB limit imposed by XP for FAT-32 partitions is indeed arbitrary.   Since you've already formatted your drive, you don't have any issues with this ... but if you ever need to format a partition larger than that with FAT-32 there are several free FAT-32 formatting utilities you can use to do so.   I noted one of these in my post in the 2nd link you provided in the question, where I also noted the other constraints for FAT-32 drives (the 2TB MBR limit, etc.).
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Thanks.  I checked the properties as suggested, and it is indeed FAT32.  
I have noted the maximum file size of 4GB, that's really good to know, because as well as still photos, good resolution (640x320 pixel resolution) video clips can be assembled into quite acceptable DVD's. I have one large mp4 assembled file at 3.3GB!  Given the usefulness of a large FAT32 formatted HDD to me (despite XP wishing to poison that), it's not a real problem, just good to be aware of it in case....
Any issues with Vista foreseen?
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Thanks folks. DVD points noted, it is the ISO file I was thinking about but if a big one happens I can put it elsewhere.  Thanks for the full and helpful answers.